Mexico captures infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, still wanted in LA

Infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was behind the killing of a U.S. DEA agent in 1985, was captured Friday by Mexican forces nearly a decade after walking out of a Mexican prison and returning to drug trafficking, according to the Mexican government’s national arrest registry.

Caro Quintero remains under indictment in Los Angeles for the crime.

Caro Quintero and co-defendants were indicted in May 1987 in Los Angeles federal court on conspiracy and racketeering charges related to the kidnapping, torture and murder in Mexico of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena. The brutal murder marked a low point in U.S.-Mexico relations.

Caro Quintero, the former leader of the Guadalajara cartel, had since returned to drug trafficking and unleashed bloody turf battles in the northern Mexico border state of Sonora.


President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has maintained that he is not interested in detaining drug lords and prefers to avoid violence.

In the years since, federal prosecutors have pressed for Caro Quintero's extradition and a warrant was issued so that he might face trial in the United States for the killing.

He was captured Friday near the town of San Simón in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, according to news reports. He was on the FBI's most wanted list, with a $20 million reward for his capture through the State Department's Narcotics Rewards Program.

A message sent to a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice was not immediately answered.

In 2013, 28 years after he was convicted for the Camarena killing, his petition for early release was granted by a Mexican court that ruled he was improperly tried in federal court for a crime that should have been handled as a state offense.

Caro Quintero, 69, is considered among the first of the Mexican drug kings.

Prosecutors contend he ordered Camarena kidnapped, tortured and killed because the DEA agent had insisted that Mexican authorities raid a 220-acre marijuana plantation in central Mexico. Authorities said the bust netted up to five tons of marijuana and cost Caro Quintero and his gang about $8 billion in lost sales.

Camarena was kidnapped on Feb. 7, 1985, in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state. His body and that of his Mexican pilot, both showing signs of torture, were found a month later, buried in shallow graves.

Caro Quintero was eventually arrested in Costa Rica.

The Camarena killing resulted in strained relations between Mexico and Washington. U.S. officials accused Mexican authorities of cooperating with Caro Quintero and allowing him to get away.

He was on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a $20 million reward for his capture through the State Department’s Narcotics Rewards Program. He was added to the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list in 2018.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.